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Dorothy Musariri

Reporter

UK could take third place in global AI ranking by 2020, claims report

By 2020, the UK could be in third place in the global ranking for the AI industry, behind only China and the US, according to a major report published by consultancies Big Innovation Centre and Deep Knowledge Analytics.

The 2,200-page report, released on Wednesday, features individual profiles of 1,000 companies, 600 investors, 80 influencers, 35 tech hubs, research centres and a number of private government entities that are assisting the development of the UK AI industry.

It claims the UK is “well-positioned” to become a leader in specific areas including healthcare and fintech, and has all the necessary resources to develop “gold standards on trusted AI”.

The research suggests that the UK could also lead the way in the development of AI ethics, governance and safety frameworks on an international scale.

It also emphasised that one of the reasons why the UK’s AI sector is “excelling” is due to its outward looking approach, rather than focusing on the home market.

Lord Clement-Jones CBE, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on AI and chair of the House of Commons, said he is “surprised” by the speed the government has picked up on AI and that it has been “exemplary”.

He said: “As shown in the report of the UK AI landscape, we have now reached the inflection point which can be reasonably described as the Cambrian Explosion of AI in the UK.

“Our previous reports by the Lords Select Committee on AI in the UK Parliament highlighted the nation’s very strong potential to become a global leader in AI, provided that sufficient commitments from the UK government were made in order to prioritise it as a matter of national strategic importance from investment in industry to trust in data and algorithms.”

He also commends the “excellent work” completed by the All Party Parliamentary Group on AI to the establishment of the Government Office for AI, saying “there’s been a substantial surge of activities on the part of the UK throughout the past several months”.

The report goes on to praise the UK government for committing £1bn in AI sector funding and private funding in UK-based AI, which has now exceeded £3.8bn ($5bn), and it estimates that the nation stands to increase the market cap of its AI industry to £232bn 2030.

Professor Birgitte Andersen, chief executive of Big Innovation Centre, believes with help from the government, the UK has a solid foundation to become a global AI leader.

She said: “The Chancellor of the Exchequer is announcing the Budget on 29 October. He should know that we are living through an economic period where success brings more success, and big is good but bigger is better.”

Speaking at the report launch in Westminster on Wednesday, Conservative MP Stephen Metcalfe, said: “Government supported input into certain areas can stimulate additional investment and additional support.

“It doesn’t have to be a lot of money, it just sends out a signal that this country is serious about its AI ambitions, and wants to be a global leader that supports the eco-system, that can bring the high-paid, high-value jobs to be the UK – that we as parliamentarians want to see our constituents benefit from.”

Commenting on the report, director of technology innovation centre Northern Ireland Digital Catapult, Tom Gray said the UK could be “challenged further” as 24 other countries in the European Union are working on AI developments.

Gray, who is also the chief technology officer of software company Kainos, added: “Looking to the future, although we have stricter governance and data protections laws, plus a smaller population (65 million versus 1.5 billion), the UK should look to the Chinese model of government for inspiration around driving AI success.

“It has a clearly stated ambition and AI leadership, with central and local government actively supporting the development of AI, both financial, and with data. This approach is behind China’s significant progress with AI, and would put the UK on the right path to continue making its own strong global impact.”